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Workholding productivity.

Workholding productivity

The productivity business." That's how Scott Lucas, VP/general manager of Vlier Enerpac describes the business he's in. His firm, a unit of Applied Power Inc, markets hydraulic workholding products, spring-loaded devices and tooling components, and machinery mounts. Vlier and Enerpac combined their resources in September, 1989, in a corporate integration that permits it to bring a complete line of tooling components and hydraulic workholding products to the industrial marketplace. It is headquartered in Butler, WI, where the hydraulic clamping products operation is centered. A plant in Burbank, CA, is home for the Tooling Components Products group.

Trends toward shorter runs, increased flexibility, and just-in-time production have sparked the industry with a new sense of urgency. Mr Lucas points out that, even today, "users insist on buying exotic CNC equipment but continue to use 1930s workholding technology. Moving from mechanical to hydraulic clamping in machine tools we can improve productivity four or five times."

He sees tremendous advancement in the next few years in the capability of workholding equipment. Pushing that capability, says Mr Lucas, are the super profiler machines that remove a lot of metal in each pass. They're putting more rigid demands on workholding systems, particularly where the newer, hard-to-machine materials are being used. "Parts just want to walk right off the fixtures," he adds.

Helping the industry meet new demands is the development of new materials designed specifically for use in the metalworking workholding environment. Mr Lucas explains that originally, tool-clamping devices were built up from other applications such as valves or couplers in the fluid-power industry. When adapted to machine tables, they didn't last long because wear characteristics were inappropriate.

Another problem: coolants used in some applications may tend to deteriorate seals or corrode materials used in hydraulic clamping systems.

"Today we are designing solutions to those problems. Different plating, sealing, and bearing materials are being designed for those specific applications," Mr Lucas explains. He points out that other conditions such as hydraulic pressures, which are settling into the 5000 psi range, are starting to be standardized in the industry. Other pluses for users that Mr Lucas points to:

* "We are moving into the infant stages of designing our new products with more modularity so they can be reused for quick setups." * Use of Collet-Lok [TM] technology, whereby swing clamps, work supports, and push clamps can be actuated hydraulically to hold parts, while an internal collet mechanism locks clamps mechanically. That relieves hydraulic pressures to the clamp, and lines drop off the pallet, so it can go unencumbered into the machine tool. This process can be handled very efficiently at a load/unload station through an autocoupler. * Manifold-mount design is becoming more popular. "We are designing many of our products with manifold-mount clamps that can be popped into holes in the fixture with hydraulics channeled through the fixture, minimizing external lines that can trap chips or get in the way of the tool path."

The entire industry is moving toward a much cleaner look that will result in more-efficient and practical operation. "JIT technology has dramatically changed the thinking in pressrooms. Press downtime has been trimmed from two-hour die changes to just minutes, due in part to the efficiency of systems like Vlier Enerpac's Quick Die Change Systems."

Mr Lucas adds, "Our goal is to have key quality products to solve productivity problems. We are committed to support, service, and engineering capability. Other people have good products, but the support and service is what will make the difference. People spend a lot of money on this product. It's nothing to spend $100,000 on a tooling project, so it's important to deal with people you can be comfortable with."

Scott Lucas Vice President/General Manager Vlier Enerpac Butler, WI
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Metalworking Product Guide
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Aug 1, 1990
Words:625
Previous Article:Cutting tools.
Next Article:Workholding, assembly, material handling.
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